Mapping’s Contribution to 811 Chicago’s Success
811 Chicago’s damage prevention program begins with a project design review for new utilities. The review emphasizes collaboration and communication among project owners, engineers, and facility operators. Project owners submit the location of the project and receive a utility atlas page from DIM’s Office of Underground Coordination (OUC). OUC returns atlas pages for most of the buried utilities in the vicinity of the project location. Facility operators sharing available mapping data of underground infrastructure with other stakeholders is key to the effectiveness of the review phase. With the maps, project owners can produce a final design that avoids existing facilities.
The project owner next resubmits the project to OUC, which then distributes the plan to all OUC members. OUC membership is comprised of utility owners who review the plan to ensure that the new utility will not encroach upon their facility. The project is only approved once all members agree on the plans. If a utility owner/operator requests changes to the plans, the project planners must make those changes before the project can be released to the permitting phase. Thus, projects approved by the OUC ensure a new facility’s potential impact on existing infrastructure is mitigated before the ground is broken.
The OUC returns value to both utility owners and excavators by saving them costs associated with utility damages. Facility owner/operators are willing to share mapping information in these circumstances because it helps protect their facilities and does not betray any sensitive information about their assets—only where a potential conflict may occur. By giving access to mapping information, utility owner/operators are helping to protect their vital assets from accidental damages, saving them time and money. The OUC process also highlights how collaboration and open dialogue between stakeholders allows 811 Chicago’s damage prevention model to be successful.
While OUC reviews are conducted in a database with access rights, 811 Chicago uses the “dotMaps” tool to publish data useful for all damage prevention stakeholders. dotMaps is a custom-built mapping program that displays the location of OUC projects, permits, and dig tickets. Stakeholders, including public users, can use dotMaps to research completed and upcoming infrastructure projects. Project owners and utility owners can use the data to coordinate work along the same stretch of right of way. Field crews can also access dotMaps to reference relevant information on-site including which utility owners have installed assets in the vicinity. Public users can use the data to understand utility projects in their neighborhoods. The coordination and transparency enabled by dotMaps further promotes damage prevention in Chicago.
Following design review, 811 Chicago will release a permit to begin construction only if the permittee can provide evidence of an approved design review. If so, the final drawing and notes from the utility owners and agency contact information are exposed to all entities listed on the permit, thus empowering an excavator with additional resources to identify buried infrastructure before they break ground as well as ensuring they receive the approved deign. 811 Chicago only releases a dig ticket if the requestor can provide a valid permit number. The same documents are exposed on the dig ticket. Of note, 811 Chicago only allows “licensed contractors”—or those with a valid liability insurance—to request permits and dig tickets. Finally, 811 Chicago has an investigation team that can respond to reports of excavators or utility owners violating the permit terms or One Call law. 811 Chicago also investigates all reported utility damages and issues sanctions accordingly.